Vancouver Symphony Orchestra mourns the death of its longtime music director

Maestro Bramwell Tovey, the longest serving music director in the history of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, has passed away.

Tovey held the position from 2000 until 2018, when he was named Music Director Emeritus of the VSO, the orchestra said in a statement mourning his death.

“Under his visionary leadership, the VSO has won Grammy and Juno awards and embarked on ambitious tours of China, Korea, the United States and Canada,” the orchestra’s statement read.

“His commitment to music education led to the establishment of the VSO School of Music, now in its 12th year, and the Tovey Center for Music. This legacy continues to impact thousands of students every year, nurturing musical appreciation and generations of emerging artists.”

Born in East London, UK, Tovey most recently served as Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra.

He died Tuesday at his home in Barrington, RI, surrounded by his family, a day after his 69th birthday.

Tovey was diagnosed with a form of sarcoma in May 2019 and underwent surgery at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston in June 2021 which briefly left him cancer-free, according to the VSO statement. The cancer returned in January.

“The world has lost an incredible musician, Maestro, educator, activist and giant of a human being,” Angela Elster, President and CEO of VSO and VSO School of Music, said in the statement.

“Bramwell Tovey’s legacy as Music Director of the VSO has changed the landscape of music, arts and culture in British Columbia.”

The VSO said it established the Bramwell Tovey Memorial Fund to continue his important work and invited donations in his honor on its website or by phone at 604-876-3434.

The orchestra said it would announce further plans to honor Tovey’s legacy in the future.

“His passing is an unthinkable loss to our industry, to the VSO and the VSO School of Music, and to all whose lives he touched so deeply,” Elster said.

With files from The Associated Press.

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